“The traditional little music of the “sweet commerce” of companies”

Chronic. After environmental responsibility and social responsibility, here is geopolitical responsibility. Companies still active in Russia today are called on from all sides to cease all relations with this country. The range of their reactions goes from “the outraged rupture” to “prudent long-term management”to use the pretty expression of the consultants Patrick d’Humières and Marine Champon on the YouMatter online platform. They should, however, “to pay the political price of their prosperity”, concludes the text.

The confrontation between the political objectives of States and the economic interests of companies is nothing new. The first reflex of the bosses is, traditionally, the separation of genders: ” business is business “, the company “does not play politics” and does not have to take sides. Doesn’t “sweet commerce” weave economic ties so inextricably that peace will inevitably flow from it?

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As historian Hubert Bonin reminds us, the exchanges between French and German companies established in the 1920s continued under the Nazi regime, even during the “rise of perils” of 1938-1939: economic sanctions were not a weapon . Only the physical closure of the border, once war has been declared, interrupts them. And again, the financial flows of “business in progress” pass through Switzerland throughout the conflict.

When the clauses of the armistice of June 1940 de facto integrated French companies into the Nazi war economy, exchanges, financed by the “occupation indemnities” due to the winner, resumed immediately, as the historian has shown. Annie Lacroix-Riz. This will earn some bosses the wrath of the purge and nationalization…

Paradigm shift

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), created in the early 1920s to represent “business” in the diplomatic arena, follow the same philosophy. One of the last congresses of the ICC was held in Berlin in 1937, in the presence of Nazi party officials.

But while the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued as early as 1976 ” guiding principles ” pushing multinational companies to adopt responsible conduct and comply with international law, the ICC is still reluctant to endorse the economic sanctions imposed in 1986 against the apartheid regime in South Africa at a conference world, notes Marieke Louis, lecturer in political science at the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies. Then the ICC agreed to negotiate with the United Nations (UN) the terms of the global pact, launched in 2000, which attributes to companies a responsibility in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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